A letter writer harassed his co-workers at an office party—but he was so drunk he doesn’t remember.
Don’t worry, says our elder; the humiliation will fade over time.
I joined work a month ago, and we had an office party last night. I had too much to drink, and I tried to hug two girls I know from work. We are acquaintances at best. And I don’t remember any of this. Next morning, I woke up and my friends told me what I did. I rushed and apologized to both of them. But I can’t stop feeling guilty. I’ve never done anything like this ever before. And the feeling of shame isn’t going away. Alcohol isn’t an excuse for what I did. The worst part is I’m an unforgettable and I don’t talk much with anyone at office. And now that I’ve done this, I don’t think I can face any of them. Especially not the two girls I harassed.
Elder Willow replies
I’m a retired businesswoman with years of experience attending office parties. I can appreciate how uncomfortable you must feel when you hear about the incident you describe in your letter. Unfortunately, such incidents happen a lot at office parties. I’ll be glad to share my perspective.
Since you don’t remember the incidents you’ve written about, my first question to you is, are you sure it really happened? As a new employee, is it possible your “friends” were playing some sort of sick prank on you? When you apologized to the girls involved, what was their reaction? Did they acknowledge what happened, or did they seem surprised?
Let’s assume you’re as certain as you can be that what your friends told you really happened. What’s past is past; you can’t undo your actions. You did the right thing by taking ownership of your behavior. By apologizing (and assuring the girls it will never happen again), you’ve already done everything you can do. There’s nothing more to say. This party only took place a couple of days ago, and the humiliation is still fresh. I promise you that in time, your feeling of shame will fade. Don’t bring the incident up again, and don’t be afraid to face your co-workers. You took responsibility and it’s over. Focus on your work, be a professional at all times and allow yourself to move on.
What is most concerning to me is that you reportedly drank so much at this office party that you don’t recall hugging your co-workers. Hopefully this incident will be a learning experience for you. Having seen many such incidents over the years, my number one rule at any office function is not to drink. At all. Period. You can drink non-alcoholic beverages or water, but at an office function you must avoid any appearance of impropriety. Nobody wants to be thought of as that person who made a fool of themselves in front of their co-workers, and the best way to do that is to avoid the bar. If you must drink, do it on your own time.
My advice to you is put this behind you, and let the incident serve as a reminder of what not to do at any future office parties. If you don’t acknowledge it again, rest assured that what happened will fade in everyone’s memories. Let time take its course.
I hope you have found my perspective helpful. Thank you for writing to the EWC, and please write again or refer us to friends if you feel we can help.